FIS Cross Country World Cup Finals (Falun, Sweden): 10/15 k freestyle pursuits
In the last women’s race of the World Cup season, U.S. Ski Team members Jessie Diggins and Sadie Bjornsen made it one they’ll remember for a long, long time as Diggins raced to second in the 10-kilometer freestyle pursuit and Bjornsen outlasted two Norwegians for third. The two finished the World Cup Finals mini tour in second and third, respectively, behind Norway’s Marit Bjørgen who won it in 24:18.9 minutes.
Bjørgen started with a 36-second cushion to her Norwegian teammate Ingvild Flugstad Østberg in second. Diggins started third, 41 seconds back, just ahead of Finland’s Krista Pärmäkoski in fourth (+43.0), based on their cumulative performances over the last two days of the mini tour (skate sprint and 10 k classic mass start).
While Østberg, Diggins and Pärmäkoski formed a chase pack, Diggins dropped them in pursuit of Bjørgen on the first lap. The American continued to push the pace throughout the three-lap race, coming within 16.7 seconds of Bjørgen at the finish.
Meanwhile, during the pursuit, a chase group of five, which included Bjornsen, caught Østberg and Pärmäkoski. The group of seven dwindled to three on the last two climbs, where Bjornsen and Norway’s Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen and Ragnhild Haga broke away in a race for third.
The three were even entering the finishing stretch, where Bjornsen then beat them in a final 100-meter push to the line. Bjornsen claimed third (+1:11.5) for her fourth podium of the season and first in a distance skate race. Haga followed in fourth (+1:12.0) and Jacobsen fifth (+1:12.8), while Pärmäkoski placed sixth (+1:16.2), Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla seventh (+1:17.9), Østberg eighth (+1:19.0), Sweden’s Jonna Sundling ninth (+1:30.5) and Ebba Andersson 10th (+1:44.7).
Bjornsen now has five-career individual World Cup podiums to her name, and this is the first in a skate race longer than 5 k.
Diggins clocked the fastest time of day in 23:54.4, while Haga was second-fastest (+10.7) after starting the race in 17th. Bjørgen’s time ranked third, Jacobsen was fourth-fastest and Bjornsen fifth-fastest.
Diggins’s performance elevated her to second in the Overall World Cup standings, just 40 points behind Norway’s Heidi Weng (who placed 18th in the pursuit) in first for the second-straight year. Østberg slipped to third overall, 22 points behind Diggins. In the Distance World Cup, Weng took the title by 63 points over Østberg in second, while Diggins was another 32 points back in third.
Bjornsen ended up sixth in the Overall World Cup and 10th in the distance standings.
Also for the U.S., Caitlin Patterson raced from 46th at the start to 35th (+3:58.4) with the 22nd-fastest time of day, Sophie Caldwell placed 36th (+4:00.7), Kikkan Randall finished her last World Cup race in 43rd (+4:33.3) with the 29th-fastest time, Rosie Frankowski placed 46th (+4:41.3), Liz Stephen 50th (+4:57.2) in her final World Cup race, Kaitlynn Miller 56th (+6:13.8), and Ida Sargent 57th (+7:06.4).
For Canada, Cendrine Browne picked off 10 places to finish 39th (+4:14.4) with 27th-fastest time of day, Emily Nishikawa finished 48th (+4:43.7), Dahria Beatty 54th (+6:04.3), and Zina Kocher 60th (+9:28.4).
In the men’s 15 k freestyle pursuit that followed, Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov started 38 seconds clear of Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo in second, and Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson and Italy’s Federico Pellegrino headed out together another second later in third and fourth, respectively.
Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby started the race in seventh (+53.0), and Switzerland’s Dario Cologna followed in ninth (+56.0), while Canada’s Alex Harvey started 1:16 back in 18th.
While Bolshunov skied the entire race on his own and won the weekend mini tour in 35:03.3, a number of racers battled for second, with Sundby moving into second in the chase pack, ahead of seven others, less than 2 k in. Several skiers found themselves at the front of that group, including Cologna, Halfvarsson, and even Harvey (with Harvey leading the chase at 9.3 k), while the time gap to Bolshunov grew.
With about 2 k to go, the group was down to six. Harvey attempted an attack, but Cologna matched him. Then, on one of the course’s final climbs, Cologna made his move to get a slight gap, but lost his balance slightly on the downhill, allowing Harvey to catch back up.
With one last uphill to go, Harvey was in the driver’s seat in second, Cologna in third and Sundby in fourth. That order held to the finish, with Harvey claiming second, 47.1 seconds behind Bolshunov, Cologna placing third (+47.5) and Sundby fourth (+48.7). Just behind them, Russia’s Maxim Vylegzhanin crossed in fifth (+50.3), ahead of Norway’s Hans Christer Holund in sixth (+51.7), Halfvarsson in seventh (+54.1), and Norway’s Sjur Røthe in eighth (+54.9). Nearly 10 seconds later, Norway’s Niklas Dyrhaug outlunged two Russians for ninth (+1:04.1): Denis Spitsov in 10th (+1:04.2) and Andrey Larkov in 11th (+1:04.3).
Harvey, who finished the season in fourth in both the Overall and Distance World Cup standings, won the time of day in 34:34.3. Holund had the second-fastest course time, 1 second off Harvey’s time, after starting the race in 22nd.
Harvey’s Canadian teammate Devon Kershaw tallied his fifth-straight distance top 30 in 28th (+2:21.9), after starting 27th, and Graeme Killick finished 56th (+4:33). Julien Locke did not start.
For the U.S., Erik Bjornsen clocked the 22nd-fastest time en route to 38th (+3:10.4), after he started 51st. Simi Hamilton improved 10 places to finish 49th (+4:07.8), Scott Patterson and Paddy Caldwell worked together to move up from 72nd and 73rd, respectively, to 58th (+4:41.5) and 59th (+4:41.6), respectively, at the finish. Kevin Bolger placed 60th (+4:43.5) and David Norris 64th (+5:09.8).
While Klæbo slipped from second to 25th in the pursuit (+1:45.8), the Norwegian still won his first Overall World Cup by 119 points over Cologna in second. Sundby placed third, 29 points out of second and 82 points ahead of Harvey.
Cologna claimed the Distance World Cup Crystal Globe by 41 points over Sundby, and Holund reached the Distance World Cup podium in third, 58 points out of second and just 5 points ahead of Harvey in third. France’s Maurice Manificat had been third heading into the final day of racing, but finished the pursuit in 26th (+2:11.9) and dropped to fifth in the final distance rankings.
IBU World Cup (Oslo, Norway): Women’s pursuit + men’s relay
In her last race of the season, Susan Dunklee returned to the podium. The American started fourth in Sunday’s 10-kilometer pursuit at the International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup in Oslo, then made her way into third by the final shooting stage. Dunklee shot 18-for-20 (1+0+1+0) and finished 29.5 seconds behind the winner, Darya Domracheva of Belarus, who missed two targets as well (1+0+1+0) and finished first in 30:37.4. Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina started the race in first (ahead of Domracheva in second) and ended up second (+9.2) with four penalties (0+2+2+0).
Canada’s Julia Ransom and Rosanna Crawford finished together in 51st and 52nd, respectively, both 4:52.4 out of first. Ransom had four penalties (0+1+1+2) while Crawford missed five (1+3+1+0). Emma Lunder did not finish.
In the men’s 4 x 7.5 k relay on Sunday, Norway’s team of Lars Helge Birkeland, Henrik L’Abee-Lund, Tarjei Bø, and Johannes Thingnes Bø used just three spare rounds to clean eight shooting stages and took the win in 1:13:13.7 hours. Austria finished 50.3 seconds back in second place, with Dominik Landertinger, Felix Leitner, Simon Eder, and Julian Eberhard, with a total of five spares. Russia’s Maxim Tsvetkov, Anton Babikov, Dmitry Malyshko, and Anton Shipulin raced to third (+56.9) with just four total spares.
The U.S. men placed seventh (+2:01.5) with eighth spares, after Lowell Bailey put the team in seventh on the first leg. Sean Doherty skied them up to sixth on the second leg, Tim Burke slipped to 10th on the third leg, and Leif Nordgren posted the seventh-fastest anchor leg to put them in seventh at the finish.
Canada placed 16th (+5:42.4) with Christian Gow, Scott Gow, Brendan Green, and Macx Davies. The team had been in 19th at the final exchange, but Davies skied them up to 16th with the 14th-fastest anchor leg. In all, they used 10 spares.